"All my design comes from taking something that already exists and working on changing it in some way. Look underneath the way I have twisted it to make it 'Gaultier' and things are fairly conservative. And that attitude stretches beyond my work, into wider issues."
Though known for his provocative conical bras, skirts for men, and outlandish runway shows, Gaultier is the product of a classical training. He apprenticed with Jean Patou and Pierre Cardin at the age of 18. Gaultier showed his first collection in October 1976, and launched his label the following year with the backing of Onward Kashiyama. These days, the erstwhile enfant terrible is more like a lovable madcap aunt, but his influence is undeniable. In 1999, Hermes bought a 35 percent stake in Jean-Paul Gaultier, a merger that enabled Gaultier to expand globally. Five years later, he became head womenswear designer for Hermes.